Opening Doors to Student Success
I am committed to education reform and revitalization. I am convinced that there is an urgent need to transform the ways that students undertake learning today. We must begin now, not just by saying that we are going to listen to students, but by committing ourselves to collaborating with them and helping them to take charge of their own individual learning paths. To do this, we must devote ourselves to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and programming that work to eliminate bullying and all forms of discrimination, help each student feel valued, and inspire in them a sense of belonging. We must work in step with each student to help them develop their creative thinking, collaboration, critical thinking, and communications skills so that they all have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Many parents, grandparents, and other individuals have contacted me to share their concerns about students’ math skills, literacy levels, and other fundamental competencies. I share those concerns. The Ministry of Education recently announced new science and technology curriculum for elementary schools and more new and inspiring curricula need to be developed. At the same time, for students to flourish, they must feel safe and secure, be well nourished, have access to clean, fresh air, and be provided with accessible and engaging work spaces that facilitate collaboration with their peers, teachers, and tutors. There are ample studies that demonstrate this.
As a candidate running for OCDSB trustee in Zone 1, my principal goal is to connect with, listen to, and work with students, parents, teachers, education specialists, researchers, and colleagues in order to implement policies and practices that will bring about substantial and measurable change for the children and youth of our city. The world is changing rapidly and so are the communities of West Carleton-March / Stittsville / Rideau-Jock. They are no longer the same places they were 20 years ago. Our rapidly transforming world impels us to reform and revitalize the ways we work with students and empower them as they become world citizens and leaders.
These are some of the principal elements of my approach:
Safe and Healthy Learning Spaces
In addition to spaces free from discrimination and harassment, students need to learn and play in a healthful environment. The Ontario Ministry of Health has established new COVID-19 protocols for 2022-23 to help prevent the spread of the virus in schools among students and teachers. These protections include promoting masking, clearly defined testing protocols, cleaning supports, and improved ventilation and air quality measurements. Students should also have access to the outdoors and each classroom should be well ventilated and equipped with HEPA air purifiers as needed in order to improve their cognitive functioning. I believe that students should also have access to safe and engaging outdoor recreational green spaces. Moreover, we must ensure that all students have breakfast and lunch; no student should go hungry. For students to flourish, they need to be safe, secure and well nourished, have fresh air, and be able to collaborate fully with their peers, teachers, and tutors. Therefore, we must reduce class sizes so that all students can be more engaged with each other and have greater access to supports for improved mental health and emotional wellbeing. These are the fundamental elements of safe and healthy learning that will help inspire children and youths to grow in the directions that they choose.
The OCDSB must develop more innovative and collaborative approaches through partnerships and programs such as EcoSchools Canada. Climate change is real, it is occurring today, and students first and foremost are demanding that we immediately begin to change how we work, study, live and play. We need to listen to them and let them take the lead by supporting them in their passionate quests for answers and providing them with opportunities to innovate. We must also listen to and work with Indigenous knowledge keepers and Indigenous children and youth who have an enduring relationship with the land and the water, and support them on their paths to resurgence and in their development of innovative technologies and revitalized forms of environmental stewardship. We can meet the challenges of climate change only by working together.
To meet the global challenges facing us today and, in the future, we need to empower students to become more engaged and self-directed in their learning. As an educator, I recognize that students have a vast diversity of needs, interests, and approaches to learning. Teachers, education assistants, and tutors work passionately to help children and youth discover and pursue their individual talents. We need to provide students and educators with more tools to democratize education and help them focus on the priorities of students. As students develop the capacity to become more self-directed in their own learning, as they learn to collaborate more deeply with each other instead of in competition with each other, they themselves will champion diversity and overcome the divisiveness that has become so engrained in our society.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The OCDSB has implemented specific policies for diversity and inclusion, and all students are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including trans and nonbinary students (Bill C-16), but we need to do much more. Classrooms across our city are highly diversified but they are not necessarily inclusive. I have worked in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for many years, and have been an ally of 2SLGBTIQ+ communities and a strong supporter of GSAs or Rainbow Alliances in schools since their introduction in the early 2000s.
Today, I teach courses as a part-time professor at uOttawa and provide training for government employees in diversity and inclusion. In my work, I use anti-oppressive and trauma-informed frameworks to expose and eliminate structural and cultural barriers and to promote full equality and inclusion. I also work directly with students as an academic coach, and I hear from many parents in our city about the challenges their kids face. I know that we must work together to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including racism, Islamophobia, Hinduphobia, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and ongoing colonization, which continue to impact the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of students and teachers in our schools.
Empowering Student Voice and Choice
I fully support working with students who are passionately demanding change, and this includes working towards electoral reform in Canada. I believe that lowering the voting age to 16 is crucial to help bring about the democratic learning reforms we need to see implemented in schools. This important transformation in our electoral process will empower young people not only to make their voices heard but to directly influence and shape policies and practices that need to be implemented to further enhance their learning and eliminate discrimination and other barriers to access that continue to harm children and youth in our schools and communities. There was a rally to lower the voting age on Parliament Hill on September 22 in support of Bill C-210. I attended that rally to lend my support to the students who are driving this most important movement for social change and social justice.